The New Year’s Resolution That Matters Most: End the COVID Crisis

As we enter year three of this pandemic, COVID-19 is having a global field day. The virus is taking advantage of our failure as an international community to end this crisis. Cases are once again rising exponentially and hospitals are overflowing. Let us be clear: this is not a health crisis. This is a crisis of leadership and political will.

Yes, world leaders have a lot of competing and compounding crises on their policy plates. Climate change. Addressing inflation, economic instability, and broken supply chains. Cybersecurity. Political instability and conflict. Escalating economic inequality. Raging misinformation and disinformation. The list goes on and on. But as world leaders begin to tackle their own new year’s resolutions, there is one that must rise to the top of their list: End the COVID-19 crisis for everyone, everywhere, once and for all.

It’s tempting given the magnitude of all of these challenges — paired with pandemic fatigue — for political leaders to focus on other issues. That is foolish. There is no pandemic exit strategy for any country without a global strategy. There is no sustained economic recovery without ending this pandemic. There is no prospect of bridging social divides when the pandemic continues to prey on the most vulnerable and marginalized populations. There is no hope of strengthening health systems when we are burning out a generation of health workers. There is no winning when people are dying needlessly every single day.

Every day we let this pandemic continue is a day where we lose the opportunity for meaningful progress on other challenges to humanity.

Here are five things world leaders must-do in 2022 to end the COVID crisis.

1. Make a plan to end this crisis for everyone. It is unfathomable that we still don’t have a global plan of action for this pandemic. We have been calling for this since mid-2020. We call on world leaders to pull together to create a war room, modeled on a Global Health Threats Council suggested by The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and backed by the G20 which needs to be truly global. Leaders should craft a plan, define leadership, and execute the plan.

2. Vaccinate the world. High-income countries are attempting to boost their way out of danger while still hoarding vaccine doses. Meanwhile, only 9.5% of people in low-income countries have received at least one dose. And, only one in four healthcare workers in Africa have been fully vaccinated. World leaders: Do whatever it takes to vaccinate the world to 70% by the middle of 2022. Invest in vaccine delivery and education, accelerate promised vaccine dose donations, and swap slots to put low- and middle-income countries at the front of the queue. Publish vaccine contracts, production schedules and pricing to give the public total transparency. “This is within reach, but only if a life in Mumbai matters as much as a life in Brussels, if a life in Sao Paulo matters as much as a life in Geneva, and if a life in Harare matters as much as a life in Washington DC,” said Dr. Ayoade Alakija, WHO Special Envoy for the ACT-Accelerator.

3. Pandemic-proof the planet. Leaders must end this crisis and prevent the next outbreak from turning into a pandemic on a parallel path. We call on world leaders to seize this opportunity to leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world — starting with the establishment and funding of a new global financing mechanism that provides robust and sustained investments in pandemic prevention and preparedness. History has shown that if action is not taken during a crisis, then political will dissipates once the crisis fades from view.

4. Get ahead of the next variant and next disease. What happens when new variants don’t hold up to vaccines or a new disease emerges and we don’t have the research and technology at the ready as we did relative to SARS-CoV-2? We are already experiencing some of this with Omicron — but the next disease could be more deadly. We call on world leaders to make pandemic-related investments a priority now and for the long-term so that every country has a plan, and we can get in front of new variants, diseases, and potential outbreaks. Now is the time to invest in moonshot approaches such as CEPI’s mission to develop pandemic-beating vaccines in 100 days.

5. Elevate pandemic preparedness and response as a leadership priority always. The persistent COVID-19 crisis along with resulting and compounding crises demonstrate that pandemics cut across global economics, personal livelihoods, global security, national security, and individual security. This is a crisis of leadership which demands better and more accountable systems for governing pandemics. It’s time to codify pandemic preparedness and response on leadership agendas at the highest levels. Heed the recommendations of The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response and establish a high-level Global Health Threats Council.

The year ahead is a tipping point in this crisis. In the cycle of “panic and neglect,” unbelievably we are teetering on neglect. World leaders have done a lot of things to respond to this crisis — denying it, wishing it away, looking around it, pretending it is over or can be managed within their own borders. Why are leaders unable, or unwilling to make the obvious connections?

World leaders: own this resolution. This year, do whatever it takes to end this crisis — and prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Thank You

In this pandemic, when time bends and we forget what day, month, or even year it is, it seems impossible that we are about to enter year three of this devastating global crisis. When this started in early 2020, few of us thought we would still be here after all this time: facing another inequitable pandemic response, the spread of yet another dangerous variant, another surge in cases and deaths, another season of plans on hold, and more uncertainties for the future.

Yet amidst all the darkness, our partnership has been a bright spot. We have joined together in this collective space recognizing that the challenges are too big and too many for any one single stakeholder or sector to tackle alone. Week after week, month after month, together we are continuing to learn, navigate, and — most importantly — act on the twists and turns of this crisis, and hold leaders accountable.

So from our global Pandemic Action Network team
to all of our partners around the world and across sectors, THANK YOU.

Thank you for proactively collaborating to advance critical issues such as vaccine equity, transparency, sustainable financing, governance, and so much more.
Thank you for showing up and rolling up your sleeves to contribute your ideas and energy in our working groups.
Thank you for being generous with your expertise, intelligence, resources, influence, and precious time.

We know that pandemic fatigue has set in and that many organizations and leaders are already turning to other priorities. That makes our collective efforts through this Network even more essential. Our job is to stay in the fight and do whatever it takes to end this crisis around the world and to prevent a deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Thank you for staying in the fight with us. And we know it’s critical to make sure we all take a moment to rest and recharge to prepare for the next round. So here’s wishing you and yours a safe, healthy, and joyous holiday season and new year. We look forward to our continued journey together next year, and working to do whatever it takes to end this crisis and prevent the next.

Together, let’s make 2022 the year that we can finally turn the corner on this crisis and lay the foundation for a healthier, safer world.

A 100-Day Proposal for Reviewing, Designing and Launching the Establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness

This is a non-paper intended to transparently share information and steps toward establishing a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF) for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness. It was developed through a consultative process and does not represent official positions of the governments involved. Rather, it is intended to provide an action plan to begin taking the steps toward launching the establishment of a Financial Intermediary Fund in 2021, including as outlined in expert reports and as recently called for by some leaders during the September 22, 2021 Global COVID-19 Summit. To bolster additional discussion, this document was prepared by the United States and Norway in consultation with an initial group (dubbed “Action Team”) comprised of interested countries, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, and expert stakeholders.

COVID-19 has underscored the need for urgent collective action to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to pandemics. There is unequivocal consensus that mobilizing additional, predictable, and sustainable financing is critical for more effective and equitable pandemic preparedness and response and to achieve global health security.

This document outlines a time-bound plan for reviewing, designing, and establishing a new multilateral Financial Intermediary Fund for Global Health Security and Pandemic Preparedness, with the World Bank as trustee. Read the draft non-paper for consultation here.

World Leaders: It is Time for New Global Funding to Keep the World Safer from Pandemics

By Amanda Glassman, Executive Vice President of Center for Global Development, CEO of CGD Europe, and Senior Fellow, and Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

This past weekend, the High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response delivered a stark warning in its report to the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting in Venice: With the near certainty of an even more deadly and costly pandemic than COVID-19 occurring within the next decade, the clock is ticking to ramp up investments in international preparedness. A central feature of the Panel’s recommendations: Create a Global Health Threats Fund that can provide at least US$10 billion annually to international institutions and to low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) governments, among others, to bolster the world’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to pandemics.

The investment case for pandemic preparedness could hardly be more compelling. At an unfathomable loss of more than 4 million lives and nearly US$20 trillion and counting, the human and economic costs of COVID-19 will be felt for a generation. And as the Panel concludes in its report, the next pandemic could be much, much worse.

In their communiqué, the G20 finance leaders “welcomed” the Panel’s report and agreed to form a task force to discuss the proposals and report out to G20 heads of state at their summit in October. Last month, G7 leaders also said they would “explore options for building consensus” around sustainable global health and health security financing.

______________

It is time to move beyond the talk and commit to an action plan
to establish and robustly finance a new Fund by the end of the year.
______________

Our message to all these leaders: It is time to move beyond the talk and commit to an action plan to establish and robustly finance a new Fund by the end of the year. This will provide a powerful engine to help LMICs and partner agencies at regional and international levels put an end to the current pandemic and lay the foundation to prepare, if not prevent, the next one.

There has been plenty of talk already. The Panel’s call for a new Fund emerged from hundreds of hours of discussions with governments and non-governmental organizations and from dozens of expert reports and analyses on what the world needs to do to be better prepared for pandemic threats, including many written well before COVID-19. It builds on the call in May by another independent panel to create an International Pandemic Financing Facility, which in turn builds on the March 2020 proposal by the Center for Global Development, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and the Nuclear Threat Initiative for a Global Health Security Challenge Fund that has been championed by a wide array of partners through the Pandemic Action Network. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board has repeatedly stressed the need for sustainable preparedness financing and the U.S. Congress has also weighed in.

We know what needs to be done. COVID-19 has shown us that pandemics are complex and sometimes unpredictable health, humanitarian, economic, and national security crises that require a multi-sectoral, whole-of-government, and global response. But we can contain or even prevent potential pandemics at their source — and thus dramatically reduce their human and economic costs — with investments in three priority global public goods where there are acute health security gaps.

  • First, we must build a strong and reliable domestic and international surveillance and data networks for early detection of emerging pathogens with pandemic potential, including zoonotic spillovers. 

 

  • Second, we should ensure that every country, regardless of income, has achieved a minimum level of pandemic readiness, including a trained frontline health workforce and infrastructure capable of effective infection prevention and control and stress-tested systems that can stop outbreaks from spreading. 

 

  • Third, we must accelerate the development, ever-ready manufacturing, global delivery, and universal access of medical countermeasures and supplies like vaccines, diagnostics, therapeutics, personal protective equipment, oxygen, and other lifesaving tools to ensure rapid responses to preclude severe shortages anywhere and avoid prolonging a pandemic everywhere. 

 

Predictable, long-term financing for the World Health Organization (WHO) is essential to help bring these three priorities together.

The need for additional financing for preparedness is most acute in the poorest countries with the weakest health systems, which have been further battered by COVID-19. Many of these countries are now experiencing a deadly third wave of this pandemic as thus far they have only been able to secure and deliver enough vaccines to cover a tiny percentage of their populations, and their medium-term economic and health financing outlook is poor. Catalytic external financing thus becomes even more important, as most of these governments will continue to have limited fiscal space for the foreseeable future and few incentives to prioritize domestic investments in pandemic preparedness over other pressing development needs. Even middle-income countries face high opportunity costs in the use of very scarce public resources and systematically underinvest in preparedness. And one country’s outbreak, if not controlled, can quickly become everyone’s pandemic.

To address these challenges, the Fund should be structured to meet five imperatives:

  • Additional, sustainable funding for prevention and preparedness. The Fund’s primary purpose must be to address the long-neglected global “crisis of preparedness” and create a robust multilateral source of financing to help LMICs and regional and global systems rapidly strengthen their frontline capacity to detect, prevent, and respond to emerging pandemic threats. This isn’t meant to be a global fund for all things health; it’s a global fund for health security to address a strategic gap in the global health architecture to prevent and prepare for emerging pandemic threats. Recent estimates of the annual costs of global preparedness from Georgetown University, McKinsey, and WHO (each using different parameters) range from US$5 billion to about US$25 billion over the next five years. Weighing the evidence, the G20 Panel thus determined that a minimum of US$10 billion in annual financing should be channeled through the new Fund, and that this must be additional to existing investments in other global health priorities. Like traditional military readiness, pandemic preparedness also requires sustained investment over time against both known and unknown threats.

 

  • Country prioritization and ownership. One of the Fund’s top priorities should be to support LMICs to develop and implement National Health Security Action Plans to meet international surveillance and preparedness standards. Funding should incentivize countries to commit a growing share of their domestic budgets for preparedness by linking new grant financing to increased domestic resources as countries’ economies and fiscal space grows (hence our original “challenge fund” concept). As a benchmark, the Panel found that LMICs will need to increase their domestic budgets for health by at least one percent of GDP on average over the next five years. The Fund should aim to leverage as much on-budget financing for surveillance, preparedness, and response as possible, enabling country government oversight and accountability structures to function.

 

  • Global burden sharing for a global public good. Pandemic preparedness is a global public good, so every country should contribute its fair share to help build a better prepared global system based on their ability to pay. Because pandemics pose a threat not only to health but also to economic and national security, governments should tap into other budgets beyond simply overseas development assistance. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the U.S. government enacted a special security fee for airline tickets which generated US$4 billion in 2017 alone. We need similar out-of-the-ordinary resource mobilization solutions to bolster pandemic readiness. It’s not only the public sector that should bear the cost, as every sector of society stands to benefit from a reduction in pandemic risk. The Fund should incorporate a financing model that can also mobilize philanthropy and leverage private capital (the latter for manufacturing efforts, for example). Amazon founder Jeff Bezos recently pledged US$10 billion to set up an Earth Fund to address climate challenges. Where is the corresponding pledge to tackle the global threat of pandemics (from which Amazon and many other technology firms have reaped record financial gains)?

 

  • Financing for results. The Fund should work or merge with existing international initiatives such as the Global Health Security Agenda and create incentives for country government progress towards minimum preparedness thresholds, building on empirical data and drawing from the strengthened surveillance systems that the Fund will support. These thresholds should be based on widely agreed measurement indicators and frameworks including the WHO’s Monitoring and Evaluation Framework (to include Joint External Evaluations, States Parties Annual Report information, and other data) combined with other external measures such as the Global Health Security Index. While none of these measures were adequate when it came to predicting countries’ capacity to effectively contain COVID-19, the perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of the good, and work is already underway to look at how these measures can be strengthened in the wake of COVID-19. In general, it will be important to shift from process indicators of preparedness (such as a committee or a protocol) to performance indicators (such as the proposed 7-1-7 goal or the proposal for measures of completeness, accuracy, timeliness, and openness of mortality and disease surveillance data). In those fragile and conflict-affected states where the government cannot operate effectively, the Fund should enable international agencies and local non-governmental organizations to conduct surveillance and report on results.Another key element will be to make the Fund more than just a Fund: it should become a global hub for catalytic financing, technical assistance, and best practices that will spur the domestic planning and managerial capacities, surveillance quality, and accountability necessary to drive a “global race to the top” that will elevate and sustain political support for pandemic prevention and preparedness.

 

  • Transparent and accountable governance: Given the proposed Fund’s magnitude of US$10 billion annually and the need for pooled funding for the global public good of prevention and preparedness, its governance should be overseen by a board which will determine priorities and gaps for financing in consultation with the WHO and other international agencies and have the flexibility to re-allocate if needed to respond to novel pathogens and specific circumstances. The Fund should also operate under a strong transparency and accountability framework and be informed by the knowledge and perspectives of civil society and community-based organizations and the private sector, who are vital partners in effective pandemic preparedness and response.

 

The Panel’s proposal structures the new Fund as a Financial Intermediary Fund (FIF). FIF arrangements can vary. In the lightest touch version of a FIF, the World Bank only performs the treasury functions and acts as trustee, similar to the role it plays for international funding entities like the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Green Climate Fund, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), to name a few. Entities like the Global Environment Facility, the Global Partnership for Education, and the Climate Investment Funds are also FIFs with separate boards and procedures, but their Secretariats are hosted at World Bank headquarters and can leverage the Bank’s balance sheet and utilize its human resource and procurement processes. And other FIFs are more closely linked to the Bank’s operations and management structure, such as the Global Agricultural and Food Security Program (which sits in the Bank’s Agriculture global practice).

Of these options, the Panel proposed the creation of a new FIF modeled on the arrangements of the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The Panel reasoned that the scale of the resources required, the need for a single pool of funding that could allocate funds across governments, international agencies, and other entities, the need to work across sectors to achieve One Health goals, and the benefits of linking to World Bank, IFC or other MDB lending justified this choice. A new pandemic preparedness fund modeled on GEF would also represent a parallel to how the Bank and its member countries deal with climate change, another global public goods challenge. While there will be some transaction costs to set up the new Fund, the Panel concluded that retrofitting existing funding mechanisms would be an even more difficult and lengthy process than building an entity fit-for-purpose for pandemic preparedness. That said, financing should be deployed through existing institutions to the extent possible, and there are fund design and use options that can build into existing global and regional structures to minimize additional bureaucracy or novel procedures that would burden partners.

Some argue that mobilizing new investments for pandemic preparedness risks diverting or leaving underfunded the fight against COVID-19 or other existing infectious disease threats. This must not — and need not — happen. The world has more than enough resources to tackle these challenges simultaneously; it is a question of political will and leadership. We believe setting up a new Fund can be a triple win: For example, enhanced investments in disease surveillance and mortality registration, supply chains and delivery systems should help accelerate the COVID-19 response, deliver better results for HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, and other diseases, and get the world ready for the next deadly pathogen with pandemic potential.

COVID-19 is far from over around the world, and urgently requires a much more muscular global response with than we have seen to date. We must redouble efforts on an array of global health goals, where progress has been seriously disrupted by this pandemic. But the growing frequency of pandemics also means the world cannot afford to wait to mount the next major initiative to confront an existential crisis: the crisis of pandemic preparedness. We must be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. So it is time for world leaders to stop discussing and start acting. Set up the Fund now. Let’s end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.


Amanda Glassman is Executive Vice President of the Center for Global Development and CEO of CGD Europe, and she was co-lead of the project team for the High-Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response. Carolyn Reynolds is co-founder of the Pandemic Action Network, a senior associate at the CSIS Global Health Policy Center and an adviser to the CGD project team. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Panel.

The First 100 Days of the Biden Presidency: A Pandemic Progress Report

Carolyn Reynolds, Co-founder & Courtney Carson, Senior Program Officer, Pandemic Action Network

The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed almost every aspect of President Biden’s first 100 days in office. During the transition, the Pandemic Action Network and leading global health experts called on then-President-elect Biden to take bold steps and work with Congress and with world leaders to end the pandemic as soon as possible and ensure we are better prepared for the next one.

So how has the Biden-Harris Administration done so far, and what remains to be done?

Prioritizing the threat: Right out of the gate, President Biden made a series of welcome announcements to prioritize pandemic response both at home and abroad.  

 

These early announcements included reversing the politically-motivated decision last year to initiate U.S. withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). Instead the Biden-Harris Administration has leaned in to bolster the WHO and the international response to this crisis. Notably, Vice President Kamala Harris’s first conversation as VP with a global leader was with WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros.

COVID-19 response: President Biden has shown leadership by wearing a mask consistently in public, and by issuing a universal mask mandate for all federal buildings, public transportation, and transportation hubs. This cemented the science-backed recommendation that wearing a mask is a key preventative measure. In addition, his first major legislative package, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), provided urgently needed relief to families, states, and communities grappling with the economic, social, and health impacts of COVID-19, and  accelerated the frontline pandemic response both at home and abroad. Despite some early challenges, the domestic vaccine rollout has accelerated in Biden’s first 100 days, with 235 million vaccines administered and 98 million people fully vaccinated as of today, according to the CDC. Despite these efforts, vaccination rates are now slowing — a worrying trend as vaccines skepticism grows across the U.S.

On the global response front, the Biden Administration has also taken some important steps, namely to commit a total of $7.5 billion to date to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) partnership and its COVAX financing facility to ramp up access to vaccines and other lifesaving tools around the world. As a result, the U.S. is now the leading donor to this global solidarity effort. Highlighting its commitment to the global response, the U.S. hosted international leaders to kick off a virtual resource mobilization campaign for COVAX, urging other wealthy nations to contribute. It also announced agreements to loan vaccine doses to Canada and Mexico, and to provide relief and vaccine donations to India, including mobilizing the U.S. military to provide emergency aid in the face of the country’s growing COVID-19 crisis.  

Pandemic preparedness: U.S. leadership is also needed to strengthen systems for pandemic preparedness, at home and abroad. Pandemic Action Network continues to urge President Biden and other world leaders to lay the groundwork for a pandemic-proof America and world now — before the pandemic fades from view and political and public attention shifts to other priorities, as it has too many times before.  

Here again, the Biden-Harris Administration has laid down some important early markers. First at home: The American Jobs Plan includes a serious commitment of $30 billion to bolster prevent future pandemics and protect against a range of biological threats. This represents renewed and increased commitment to bolstering research and development, surveillance, and strategic stockpiles to ensure America is ready to respond to future disease threats. 

On the global front, President Biden is leading a push for new sustainable financing to help all countries be prepared to counter pandemic threats. Pandemic Action Network is pleased that in NSM1 and several follow-on announcements, the Biden-Harris Administration has expressed its intent to heed our call to establish an enduring international catalytic financing mechanism for preparedness, with the aim to ensure that every country has the core capacity it needs to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks at their source before they become deadly and costly pandemics like COVID-19. Earlier this week, Vice President Harris urged representatives at the United Nations to work together now to prepare for the next pandemic. The Administration’s initial budget proposal for FY22 released April 9 backs up these pledges with a $1 billion increase in funding for global health security. 

Looking Ahead: This progress in President Biden’s first 100 days is a welcome start. But much more must be done, and urgently — as the pandemic continues to rage around the world and as the next pandemic threat is looming. Pandemic Action Network has issued an Agenda for Action for world leaders. U.S. support will be critical to drive progress in all of these areas, but here are three where the Biden-Harris Administration can and should lead the way now:

  • Expanded global vaccine access is vital to ending this pandemic. According to the Launch and Scale Faster initiative at Duke University, the U.S. has secured at least 500 million more doses than it needs to vaccinate every American, while some of the poorest nations have yet to receive a single dose. Given U.S. success in vaccination — and the threat to the U.S. of the continued spread of COVID-19 and its variants in other parts of the globe — the Biden-Harris Administration should lead the way to immediately share more excess doses with the world through COVAX. In his first address to Congress, President Biden committed to sharing vaccines with the world once the U.S. has amassed additional supply and when all Americans have access to COVID-19 vaccine. We are there, and we will not end this pandemic if we continue to allow other countries to go unserved. And President Biden should also work with world leaders to agree on a Global COVID-19 Vaccine Roadmap to reach at least 70% global vaccine coverage as soon as possible. 
  • Mobilize additional domestic and international funding for preparedness on par with the threat. To this end, we urge the U.S. to build on its commitment to establish a global financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness with a pledge of at least $2 billion to start, and call on other G7 and G20 member countries to join the U.S. and invest in this effort toward an initial capitalization of $20 billion this year. Separately, the U.S. should also commit a multi-year pledge toward fully funding the five-year plan of action for the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI is playing a critical role in accelerating global access to vaccines in this crisis, and has set a bold goal to compress the future timeline to develop new vaccines for emerging pandemic threats so that they can be quickly developed, tested, and rolled out in an emergency. This is the kind of ambition the world needs, and the U.S. must do its fair share to advance this global public good.  
  • Fix the global pandemic defense system. While new and dedicated funding for preparedness is absolutely critical, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that we must strengthen our international instruments of leadership and accountability to ensure both better preparedness and more rapid response to potential pandemics. This includes strengthening our existing global mechanisms such as the WHO and International Health Regulations, but also seriously entertaining bold and new modalities and frameworks for pandemic governance, such as the proposal for a new pandemic treaty, which now has the backing of dozens of other world leaders. President Biden convened world leaders last week on climate change to push for bold solutions; pandemic threats deserve the same level of political priority.

 

The next few months will see a series of global summits and convenings, offering world leaders multiple opportunities to seize the moment and take action. Pandemic Action Network urges President Biden and his Administration to seize these opportunities, doubling down on the progress of the first 100 days and going bigger and bolder on ending this pandemic and preventing the next. While progress since January 20 has been meaningful, the costs of the U.S. and the world failing to act sooner continue to mount — and the pandemic is far from over. Now is the time for a step change in the ambition of the U.S. and global leaders to do what it will take to end this pandemic for everyone, and ensure that COVID-19 leaves a long-term legacy of a pandemic-proof world. 

Our Pandemic Anniversary Wish: Let’s Pandemic-Proof the Planet

Co-founders of Pandemic Action Network: Carolyn Reynolds, David Kyne, Eloise Todd, and Gabrielle Fitzgerald

One year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) finally told the world what was already clear: that with 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories around the world, COVID-19 could be “characterized as a pandemic.” Of course, we had no idea at that time just how large and protracted this global crisis would become, with more than 117 million cases and over 2.6 million deaths worldwide and counting as of today.

It’s been a year of both horrible and amazing developments. Around the world, governments have scrambled, misinformation has flourished, advocates have rallied, scientists have mobilized, frontline healthcare, public health, essential workers have stepped up. There have been incredible stories of resilience, adaptation, and innovation by families, communities, and businesses. Yet crisis can be a great revealer, and this one has also exposed and preyed upon deep and longstanding global inequities, vulnerabilities, and broken systems.

The anniversary of this crisis should be a moment for all of us to reflect on what we have learned, and to commit to bold and urgent action.

Leaders have an historic opportunity to take actions now that will not only hasten the end of this pandemic, but will also begin to pandemic-proof the planet so that future generations never again experience the health, economic, and social devastation we have seen over the past year. 

The pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives and the solutions require leadership from all of us. We need the best and brightest not only working in science and health but also in finance, defense, technology, education, manufacturing, transport, and across every other sector of the global economy to join forces to solve this global challenge. And pandemic-proofing the planet demands that we tackle the dual threats of climate and health hand-in-hand.

We are calling on world leaders to seize this moment to commit to take action in four areas that will help pandemic-proof the planet and leave humanity healthier, safer, more resilient, and more prosperous.

Pandemic Action Network’s Pandemic-Proof Agenda

Speed up access and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines and other lifesaving tools to everyone, regardless of where they live. This starts with fully funding the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and COVAX Facility. It also means countries which have secured more vaccine doses than they need should start donating vaccines to reach other nations in need, in parallel to their domestic vaccine rollout. Governments and industry also must join together to find the resources, and eliminate the bottlenecks, necessary to ramp up global manufacturing capacity, as part of a roadmap to get to at least 60-70% vaccine coverage in every country. With the evolving virus strain mutations, we are in a race against time to control this pandemic. But let’s also make sure these efforts do not come at the expense of other global health needs and goals.

Get serious on investing in pandemic preparedness. Donor nations, private foundations, and investors should come together to establish a sustainable global financing mechanism for pandemic preparedness, with an initial funding target of US$20 billion. Now is the time to fuel a global “pandemic-proof challenge” to ensure that every country has the plans, capacity, trained workforce, and functioning system it needs to effectively prevent, detect, and respond to outbreaks at their source before they spread and become deadly pandemics. This initiative should also incentivize countries to prioritize pandemics in their domestic budgets as a long-term security threat. Smart climate, biodiversity, and land-use policies must be a critical piece of those plans.

Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats. The COVID-19 crisis has shown that the world needs an at-the-ready capacity for timely delivery of the health technologies and supplies needed to combat both the known and unknown diseases likely to spark the next pandemic. A good start will be to support the US$3.5 billion five-year strategy of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to achieve its moonshot goal to have a new vaccine ready within 100 days when the next novel disease outbreak happens. And we must build a seamless global network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs and streamline regulatory processes so that every nation can quickly get the tools when they need them.

Build a smarter global pandemic defense system. Defense starts with prevention, and the UK’s five-point plan for the G7 and the COP26 meeting later this year offer the opportunity for bold action on climate which could drastically reduce the chances of pandemics occurring in the first place. But we know outbreaks will happen, and more frequently. So the WHO must be strengthened and fit-for-purpose, with reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework or pandemic treaty and a state-of-the-art, global virus surveillance and detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats.

A year into this crisis, we are all experiencing pandemic fatigue. The rollout of new vaccines is providing hope that the end may be near, and we can get on with our lives. Yet the reality today is that for the vast majority of the world’s population, that hope remains elusive. Everyone will remain at risk until there is universal access to the vaccines and the virus is contained everywhere. Unless we speed up the global response, we could be marking the second anniversary of this pandemic next year. Furthermore, the next pandemic could be around the corner, and could be even more lethal and costlier than this one.

But it doesn’t have to be this way: we can pandemic-proof the future if world leaders heed our wish and take action now in these four areas. The world can’t afford to wait.

Pandemic Action Network Statement on Outcomes of the G7 Special Summit and Munich Security Conference on the Global COVID-19 Response

Eloise Todd and Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founders of the Pandemic Action Network, said:

The Pandemic Action Network applauds the financial pledges made today by global leaders to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and its COVAX facility, which together constitute a significant jump forward toward ACT-A’s US$38B funding target. Substantial contributions from the leaders of the US, Germany, and the European Commission helped make this leap, along with new contributions from Canada and Japan. We also welcome US President Joe Biden’s call for increased investments in global health security to address emerging pandemic and biosecurity threats.

This strong show of multilateralism, together with commitments already made by the United Kingdom’s leadership of the G7 Presidency and the Italian G20 Presidency to prioritize global health security in their forthcoming summits, gives us hope that 2021 could be the year in which we not only can turn the corner on COVID-19, but also lay the foundation for a world that will be better prepared for future pandemic threats.

To accelerate the end of this global crisis, we urge G7 leaders to heed the call of French President Emmanuel Macron to ensure healthcare workers and the most vulnerable people in the poorest countries can urgently access to COVID-19 vaccines, by sharing some of the vaccines ordered by the wealthiest countries without delay, as well as by closing the remaining financing gap for the ACT-Accelerator.

Yet even as the world is fighting this crisis, we must urgently prepare for the next one. That’s why we also are urging G7 and G20 leaders to join with President Biden in plans for “creating an enduring international catalytic financing mechanism for advancing and improving existing bilateral and multilateral approaches to global health security.” Speaker after speaker at the Munich Security Conference today talked about how the costs of inaction vastly outweigh the cost of acting in advance of future outbreaks to quash potential pandemic threats, yet preparedness has been ignored for far too long. Actions speak louder than words: Now is the time for the G7 and G20 to commit the policies, plans, and resources necessary to build a future that will protect both people and planet.

2021 could be a historic year for multilateral action to combat some of the gravest threats facing humanity. There is an opportunity for leaders to ensure equitable access to vaccines and to advance ambitious pandemic preparedness, climate, and biodiversity plans toward a better, safer, and healthier world. Our Network of more than 90 partners around the world stands ready to work with world leaders to seize this unprecedented opportunity. We simply cannot afford to fail.

A Year into COVID-19: It’s Time to Urgently Fund the Global Response and Start Preparing the World for the Next Pandemic

By Carolyn Reynolds and Eloise Todd

January 30 marks the one-year anniversary of the World Health Organization’s declaration of COVID-19 as a global health emergency. Yet as governments around the world have scrambled to respond and protect their citizens from the fast-moving pandemic, support for the global COVID-19 response has continued to be given short shrift. If we are going to end this devastating pandemic and make sure we are better prepared for the next one, this national near-sightedness must change now. 

The frightening speed with which variant strains of COVID-19 are spreading around the globe is further proof of how highly nationalist responses to the pandemic are misguided. While it may seem intuitive for governments to first take action at home, this approach belies the fact that the virus does not respect borders. Many countries that managed to control or even stop the spread of the virus earlier are once again seeing a surge in cases. There simply is no effective domestic response without also embracing a global approach.  

That’s why at the Pandemic Action Network we have been urging support for a robust, coordinated global response as the only way to hasten the end to COVID-19 everywhere and ensure that the trillions that countries are spending to try to end this crisis also help jumpstart long-ignored investments in better global preparedness to help stop the next pandemic before it starts. 

Early announcements on the importance of global engagement on the COVID-19 response and pandemic preparedness from the new Biden Administration in the US, together with the plans from the Italian presidency of the G20 and the European Commission to host a Global Health Summit in May and a 5-point plan from the UK presidency of the G7, are important signals of support for a stronger international approach. Those opportunities, along with the forthcoming final report of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, offer an unprecedented political window of opportunity to act. But that window will likely close quickly as high-income countries get more of their populations vaccinated from COVID-19 and governments begin to shift their attention toward economic recovery and other needs that have been neglected during the pandemic. 

Our international network of more than 90 partner organizations is calling on world leaders to own and accelerate an aggressive agenda to stop the spread of COVID-19 everywhere and leave humanity better prepared for emerging pandemic threats. The imperative to act has never been greater: this deadly and costly pandemic has affected every nation, and the next one is lurking. Leaders need to get these four things done urgently in 2021 to make the world safer:

Fully fund the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and COVAX Facility to   speed up global access to COVID-19 vaccines. If vaccines are distributed only to high-income countries first, recent estimates are that the world may only avoid one-third of COVID-19 related deaths. While political commitments made thus far toward the ACT-A and its COVAX Facility have been a bright spot of rhetorical solidarity, world leaders must act on those words to urgently close the ACT-A financing gap to accelerate widespread distribution, not only in vaccines, which are in the spotlight right now, but also of diagnostics and therapeutics which will be needed even more while supplies of vaccines build up. When it comes to vaccines, all countries should also commit to work through the COVAX Facility to exchange and donate their excess vaccine supplies to support other nations in need.

Ramp up investments in frontline preparedness. Recent estimates point to at least a  US$5-10 billion annual funding gap to make the world better prepared for pandemics. This amount is likely now higher given the toll of COVID-19 has inflicted on frontline health workers and already struggling health systems around the world, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. Yet this is still a small fraction of the trillions governments have spent on COVID-19 stimulus packages, vaccines, and other response measures to date. Just as the world mobilized to respond to the global AIDS crisis, this moment calls for a bold, dedicated multilateral financing mechanism to supercharge pandemic preparedness. Creating a Global Health Security Challenge Fund will support countries to close their critical health security gaps and stimulate a global “race to the top” for better preparedness. Once the ACT-A is fully funded, donor nations, private foundations, and investors should kickstart the Challenge Fund with an initial US$10 billion this year.

Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats. This crisis has shown that the world needs an at-the-ready capacity for timely delivery of the health technologies and supplies needed to combat the known and unknown diseases likely to spark the next pandemic. Leaders should secure and finance the effective Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to ensure it has the resources necessary to continue to respond to COVID-19 and also to secure its future. Building on the emerging lessons from the current pandemic, CEPI has the potential to serve as a permanent global R&D coordination hub with an end-to-end approach, working closely with the World Health Organization on the global R&D Blueprint. Leaders should also help build and/or fortify a network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs so that every continent and every nation can quickly get the tools to stop outbreaks at their source.  

Build a smarter global pandemic defense system. The WHO must be fit-for-purpose, with reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework and a state-of-the-art, global outbreak detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats. European allies have laid out a 10-point WHO reform plan which, together with the forthcoming report of the Independent Panel, can provide the basis to achieve consensus on a more responsive global system. Pandemic preparedness should be at the top of the UN Security Council agenda, and the UN Secretary-General should convene heads of state in a global preparedness summit before the year’s end to secure their commitments to act – and enable their citizens to hold them to account.

Everyone deserves to hope for a swift end to the pandemic, regardless of where they live. But it will only be possible if our political leaders act globally as well as locally, knowing no country will be safe until every country is safe. Their shared goal should be even bigger: to leave a legacy of a healthier and safer world by taking the steps necessary to help prevent another deadly and costly pandemic from happening again.

Go Big: President Biden Has an Unprecedented Opportunity to Make Humanity Safer from Pandemic Threats

By: Carolyn Reynolds

The inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new U.S. President and Vice President has arrived with a mix of sadness and hope. The 400 lights along the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool and 200,000 flags on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. are poignant reminders of the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The deadly combination of this protracted health crisis and the recent assault on the U.S. Capitol building have cast a dark shadow over this historic occasion. Yet it also underscores the tremendous urgency – and opportunity – to finally get COVID-19 under control and take the steps necessary to make America and the world better prepared for future pandemic threats. It is now or never to go big – both on pandemic response and on preparedness.

With 400,000 American deaths and counting and tens of millions of families struggling with unemployment, hunger, and virtual schooling, the new Administration has rightly made the domestic COVID-19 response job one. Before inauguration, President Biden rolled out an ambitious $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus and response plan and plan to vaccinate 100 million in 100 days. Included in the package is a relatively very modest, but critically important, $11 billion toward the global pandemic response – recognizing America will not be safe until every country is safe, and that America’s health and economic recovery from the pandemic is highly dependent on the world’s health and recovery.

More good news came from Secretary of State-designate Tony Blinken’s remarks at his confirmation hearing that the United States would formally join COVAX to promote global access to COVID-19 vaccines. Together with the appointment of an experienced slate of leaders to key Administration posts who are highly knowledgeable on pandemic threats – Blinken, Ron Klain, Jake Sullivan, Susan Rice, Samantha Power, Beth Cameron, Bonnie Jenkins, and Rochelle Walensky, among others – and the plan to reverse withdrawal of the United States from the WHO on day one, the Biden-Harris Administration is off to a good start.

But the new President and his team must do much more to meet this moment in history. Even as we fight the pandemic before us, the next pandemic will not wait. The failure to sustain high-level political leadership and investments to prioritize pandemic preparedness left the world highly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. A full year into this crisis, there are still gaping holes around the world in frontline infection prevention and control capabilities and reliable data. Gaps in affordable access to vaccines, diagnostics, treatments, personal protective equipment and other essential supplies to detect, prevent, and respond to outbreaks are more glaring than ever, despite repeated warnings and solutions from numerous expert commissions and reports over the past five years. It should not be this way.

It is time to go big. As a centerpiece of President Biden’s plans to assert America’s position as a go-to leader and partner on the world stage, we are urging the Biden-Harris Administration to work with Congress and world leaders to launch and lead an aggressive agenda for action on global health security, including:

1) Finish the fight on the global COVID-19 response: Urgently help close the remaining financing gap for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to support widespread global distribution of vaccines, and commit to work through the COVAX facility to exchange and/or donate vaccine supplies to support other nations in need.

2) Ramp up U.S. investments in global health and pandemic preparedness: Establish a dedicated Global Health Security Challenge Fund to accelerate national investments to close critical health security gaps and stimulate a global “race to the top” for preparedness. The United States should commit $2 billion to kickstart a $10-20 billion Challenge Fund – a tremendous bargain compared to the trillions being spent for COVID response and recovery. Overall, the United States should double funding for global health security and other global health programs over the next five years, including investing in a stronger frontline health workforce as the first line of defense for outbreaks.

3) Build a smarter global pandemic defense system: Ensure the WHO is fit-for-purpose, including reliable funding, enhanced authority to conduct early and independent outbreak investigations, and the ability to hold member states accountable for compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHRs). To help “pandemic-proof” the future, the world also needs a new international preparedness framework and a state-of-the-art, global outbreak detection system to better predict and manage cross-border threats. The United States should also put pandemic preparedness at the top of the UN Security Council agenda and call on the UN Secretary-General to convene heads of state in a global preparedness summit this year.

4) Bolster global research, development, and delivery of tools for emerging infectious disease threats: Make a $200 million commitment for U.S. participation in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and expand its capacity to serve as a permanent global R&D coordination hub with an end-to-end approach. Leaders should also fortify a network of regional R&D, manufacturing, and supply hubs so that every continent and every nation can quickly get the tools to stop outbreaks at their source. Supporting a global health security-focused Grand Challenge at USAID and a permanent emerging and reemerging infectious diseases funding line for BARDA will be other key tools in our pandemic arsenal.

5) Elevate U.S. global leadership, diplomacy, and accountability: Designate and empower high-level interagency leadership roles with the funding necessary to elevate and sustain global preparedness as a continuing national security, diplomatic, and health priority. A 9/11-style bipartisan Commission on the U.S. Response to COVID-19 would provide a critical public examination and political pressure to address the most urgent national and global preparedness gaps, and seek ways to protect the independence of our science and public health agencies.

This won’t be easy, given pressing domestic demands and deep divides and distrust in Congress and the American public. But like the response to 9/11 and the AIDS pandemic, the COVID-19 crisis demands extraordinary U.S. global leadership, ingenuity, and political resolve – to treat pandemics as the existential global and national security threat they are.

The good news is that there is a strong record of bipartisan support on addressing infectious disease threats to build on – from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA) to the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) and the 2015 Ebola supplemental bill. President Obama’s November 2016 Executive Order was left in place by the Trump White House, which also produced a strong Biodefense Strategy (2018) and Global Health Security Strategy (2019) at the direction of Congress. Bipartisan House and Senate bills introduced in the last Congress provide a starting point for building a new consensus.

Just as the military continuously prepares for war on multiple fronts, we can and must prevent the next pandemic while fighting this one. But the political opportunity to act is now, while the impact of COVID-19 is still front and center in people’s lives. Waiting until this pandemic is over or the next one comes is simply too late. We must not wait for the next crisis to act.

Multilateralism Matters: Why the U.S. Should Stay in the WHO

By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

*This blog is adapted from an article published in CQ Researcher, September 2020

As the world marks United Nations Day on October 24 – in the midst of a pandemic with no end in sight ― it’s a good moment to reflect on how much the United States benefits from the UN, and in particular its membership in the World Health Organization (WHO). U.S. membership in the WHO is on the ballot in the presidential election, with the current Administration’s decision to initiate withdrawal of the U.S. from the WHO. On the other side, Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if he were to be elected President he would reverse the decision on day one in office.

The choice is clear: the WHO serves U.S. interests in several ways, and never more so than now.

First, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world can quickly put American lives and livelihoods at risk. Until a vaccine exists and is widely and equitably delivered around the world, no country will be safe from COVID-19. Ending the pandemic requires a united global effort, in which the WHO plays an indispensable role. Countries worldwide rely on the WHO’s expertise to lead the global response to the pandemic, from providing technical guidance on proven interventions to coordinating international efforts to accelerate research, development, and universal access to a COVID-19 vaccine and to therapeutics. The WHO-coordinated Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and Solidarity Trial are unprecedented global efforts that will increase the likelihood of ending the pandemic faster.

Second, the WHO has led global efforts to combat a host of other infectious disease threats. The eradication in 1980 of smallpox, which killed an estimated 300 million people during the 20th century, is one of the agency’s greatest achievements. With sustained WHO leadership, the world is now extremely close to eradicating polio, down to just 176 cases worldwide in 2019.  U.S. political and economic support has been vital to this effort, and withdrawal could stall efforts to end this debilitating scourge. International efforts to fight influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis also depend on the WHO for support.

Third, the WHO provides the backbone for the world’s infectious disease early warning system.  Working closely with experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the WHO helps governments assess their pandemic preparedness gaps and mobilize early detection and response efforts. U.S. withdrawal will hobble that capacity and leave a major hole in the common global defense against growing pandemic threats.

Both the WHO and the United States have lessons to learn from this pandemic. While the WHO’s emergency response capacity has improved considerably in recent years, all agree it can be strengthened. An independent panel has been established to review the global COVID-19 response and what governments, the WHO, and the international system could do differently to improve their preparedness and response. But scapegoating the WHO for COVID-19 is a political distraction. The agency, which lacks the ability to compel member states to act, is only as effective as its members – particularly its most powerful member and largest donor – will allow.

Leaving the WHO will further erode U.S. influence on the global stage. It would be ill-advised at any time, but to do so as the world grapples with the mounting health and economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic is unfathomable. Only global solidarity and a coordinated, multilateral approach will bring us safely out of this war against a deadly virus that knows no borders.

America needs the WHO, and the WHO needs America. The U.S. should not only stay in, it should also step up its support ― to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.

Pandemic Action Network’s Statement of Support for Full Funding of the Act Accelerator

Statement from Carolyn Reynolds and Eloise Todd, Co-Founders, Pandemic Action Network

“Today was anToday was an important step forward for global solidarity and toward the global goal of ensuring safe, equitable and affordable access to vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics for COVID-19 as soon as possible.  The Pandemic Action Network warmly welcomes funding commitments from Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the World Bank that will help deliver more COVID-19 tools in developing countries. We urge all governments and international funders to follow their lead and ensure full funding for the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.  In addition, we strongly commend the unprecedented communique signed by the CEOs of 16 pharmaceutical companies and the co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, committing to enable affordability for lower income countries and to support effective and equitable distribution of innovations globally, while ensuring public confidence in those innovations with a commitment to safety. As the communique rightly says, these commitments will not only enable a faster path out of the current COVID-19 crisis but will also lay the foundation for a strong pandemic preparedness ecosystem the next time a pandemic arises.”

GPMB to World Leaders: Now Will You Listen?

By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder Pandemic Action Network

 

We warned you, but you did not listen.  That’s the overarching message of the new report from the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) entitled A World in Disorder.  In their inaugural report one year ago, the GPMB warned of the risk of a high impact, respiratory pathogen that could quickly spread around the globe.  Now in their latest report with a starker cover and a sterner title and narrative―much like parents admonishing their delinquent teenagers―the current and former global health elders that make up the GPMB are wagging their fingers and telling world leaders: you’re out of chances.

This year’s report echoes many of the main messages from last year’s (and from many other expert commissions in recent years), including: national political leadership is paramount; investing in preparedness is not only about saving lives, it’s about protecting economies; the impact―and hence the solutions―of pandemic preparedness go well beyond the health sector, and require a One Health approach; and no one in the world is safe until everyone is safe.

Four recommendations in the report that are particularly welcome:

The UN Secretary General should convene a UN Summit on Global Health Security with heads of state, the WHO Director General, and heads of the International Financial Institutions to forge a new international preparedness and response framework.

Create a new sustainable financing mechanism for global health security that incentivizes nations to prioritize preparedness and recognizes it as a global common good that should not be at the mercy of political and economic cycles.  This echoes the call of many of our Network partners for a Global Health Security Challenge Fund.

Amend the International Health Regulations (IHRs) to improve access to information and increase member state accountability beyond the scope of the current IHRs.  This will be politically fraught but unavoidable to drive the change necessary.

Finance global health R&D as a public good by building on the unprecedented international scientific collaboration around COVID-19 to create a sustainable, coordinated global R&D financing and delivery mechanism to facilitate rapid R&D for epidemic-risk and novel diseases and ensure that every country has an affordable and reliable pathway to secure vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, and other medical countermeasures for health emergencies when they need them.

Unfortunately (although not surprisingly), the request for a high-level summit was stripped from the omnibus COVID-19 resolution passed by this year’s UN General Assembly, a casualty of the highly polarized geopolitical environment. But advocates should not be deterred.  Such a summit to prioritize pandemics as a grave global security threat, secure high-level political commitments, and drive a new international consensus and accountability is the right call to action.  The Pandemic Action Network and our partners will be pressing world leaders to convene this summit before the end of 2021―this should happen as soon as possible after the Independent Panel on Preparedness and Response delivers its report to the World Health Assembly next May.  To ensure this results in meaningful change by governments and international institutions, the planning should get underway now.

Does this year’s GPMB report have a better chance than its predecessor to convince policymakers to act?  I am cautiously optimistic, for two reasons. First, its warning is no longer hypothetical. The COVID-19 pandemic is still unfolding before our eyes, with no end yet in sight, and it looks likely to get worse before it gets better as we see resurgences around the globe and flu season gets underway.  If there was ever a time that political leaders may be open to do something, this should be it.

Second, we now have a global advocacy effort focused on preparedness to take up these calls for action and hold national and global leaders to account.  GPMB co-chair As Sy, the former Secretary-General of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said we need “a global movement of solidarity” committed to inclusion, partnership and compassion to make the world safer from pandemics.  The Pandemic Action Network is dedicated to growing this movement: In a few short months we have brought together more than 40 organizations with global reach to drive collective action to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.  And we are just getting started.

At the GPMB report launch, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “If we do not learn these lessons now and take the steps necessary, when will we? This will not be the last pandemic or global health emergency.  Every day we stand by and do nothing is another day we come closer to the next disaster.  We don’t know what it will be, but we know it will come―and we must prepare.  When it comes to preparedness, our biggest obstacle is ourselves.”

The warnings are crystal clear. So, will leaders listen this time and do what is required to prepare for the next pandemic? The Pandemic Action Network is here to make sure they do.  Join us!

The Wrong Decision for America and the World

July 14, 2020
By Carolyn Reynolds, Co-Founder, Pandemic Action Network

The wrong decision for America and the world

Last week, the Administration took the first formal step to initiate the US withdrawal from the World Health Organization (WHO). This decision will have huge negative consequences for America and the world – never more so than in the middle of a global pandemic.

Under the terms of the 1948 joint resolution of Congress authorizing membership in the WHO, there are two conditions for a US withdrawal: a one-year notice – on which the clock is now ticking – and full payment of outstanding US financial obligations, or assessed contributions, which currently total $203 million – $120 million for Fiscal Year 2020 and $83 million unpaid from Fiscal Year 2019.

More than ever, America needs the WHO, and the WHO needs America – its largest donor and most powerful member. Here is a brief look at how membership in the WHO serves America’s interests:

First, the pandemic has laid bare how infectious disease outbreaks anywhere in the world can quickly spread and put American lives and livelihoods at risk. Until there is a vaccine, no country will be safe. Ending the pandemic requires a united global effort, in which WHO plays an indispensable role. From providing technical guidance on proven public health interventions to coordinating international efforts to accelerate research, development and universal access to a COVID vaccine and therapeutics, countries around the world trust WHO and rely on its expertise to lead the COVID-19 response. The WHO-coordinated Action for Covid Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) and Solidarity Trial are unprecedented global efforts that will increase the likelihood of ending the pandemic faster.

Second, WHO has led global efforts to combat a host of other infectious disease threats. The eradication of smallpox in 1980, which killed an estimated 300 million people in the 20th century, is one of WHO’s greatest achievements. With sustained WHO leadership, the world is now extremely close to eradicating polio, down to just 176 cases worldwide in 2019. US political support and funding has been vital to this effort, and withdrawal could stall efforts to end this debilitating scourge to humanity. International efforts to fight influenza, HIV/AIDS, malaria, measles, and tuberculosis all depend heavily on the WHO – with US cooperation and funding – for support.

Third, WHO provides the backbone for the world’s infectious disease early warning system. Working closely with experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and the Agency for International Development, and through the Joint External Evaluations and oversight of the technical support, WHO helps governments assess their preparedness gaps and mobilize early detection and response efforts. US withdrawal will hobble WHO’s capacity and leave a major hole in our common global defense to pandemic threats, which are on the rise.

As of this writing, several Members of Congress (not enough!) had spoken up against the decision, among them retiring Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN):

“Certainly there needs to be a good, hard look at mistakes the World Health Organization might have made in connection with coronavirus, but the time to do that is after the crisis has been dealt with, not in the middle of it. Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States. If the administration has specific recommendations for reforms of the WHO, it should submit those recommendations to Congress, and we can work together to make those happen.”

Both WHO and the US have many lessons to learn from this pandemic. WHO’s emergency response capacity has improved considerably in recent years, but there’s widespread consensus that additional reforms are needed. In May, WHO member states approved a resolution to conduct an impartial, independent and comprehensive review, and WHO Director-General Tedros announced that Former Liberian President and Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark will co-chair the panel. Among the many issues they will need to examine is WHO’s funding model and its limited ability to compel member states to act, including review of the International Health Regulations. The reality is that WHO is only as effective as its members allow it to be – and particularly its largest donor.

The health and security case for US membership and support for WHO is clear – and leaving WHO or trying to set up an alternative body will only serve to further erode US influence on the global stage. The decision to withdraw could be revoked at any time before the one-year deadline; presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has said that if he were to become President he would reverse the decision on day one. But this should never be a partisan issue.  The US should stay in and use its might to ensure a stronger WHO – to end this pandemic and help prevent the next one.